Shelby: Alright. Tom is here with me now. And we have got an update on some amazing new medical advancements, right?
Tom: That is right. Electrical pulses have given some people with spinal cord injuries a chance to move again. Check it out.
For the past three years, Dustin Shillcox hasn’t been able to move his legs. He was paralyzed in a car accident in 2010.
Dustin Shillcox: I never had any progress back as far as movement or any signs that I would have any movement or walk again. Stimulator box.
Tom: But now thanks to a spinal cord stimulator, Dustin has done something he never thought he would do again – move his legs just by thinking.
Dustin: They would say, ‘Wiggle your toe,’ and I just kept trying. And then eventually the whole leg started coming in to it. I started having control of my legs again. It’s pretty exciting!
Tom: Injuries to the spine disrupt nerve pathways that come from the brain and tell the body to move.
In this study, researchers implanted an electrical stimulator at the base of the spine. When it is turned on, impulses are emitted that appear to wake up injured nerve pathways. The technology was first tried three years ago by researchers working with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
Dr. Claudia Angeli: What we’re doing is waking up the spinal cord and allowing it to be ready to receive a signal from the brain.
Tom: Researchers hope this new therapy could lead to a new life for the 500,000 people who suffer from spinal cord injuries every year. Dustin is one of four patients to receive the implants, and all four are reporting similar success. While he still can’t walk or feel anything below his chest, he has every reason to hope things will only get better.
Dustin: It’s a miracle for me.
Tom: Doctors say there is still a lot to learn about this type of treatment, but they plan to expand the study and hopefully they can help more people.